Couple loses home to morning three-alarm fire

A three-alarm fire consumed a house off of Moffat County Road 15 early this morning.

Steve Kernen woke up his wife at about 8:30 a.m. when he detected something that "smelled like burning tennis shoes."

Owners Steve and Leta Kernen escaped unharmed from a blaze believed to be started in their coal furnace. Kernen said fire "exploded" from the furnace after he opened the door to the coal stove.

The couple lost their wedding rings, antiques and a gun collection to the blaze that almost burned their house to the ground at 25 Crooked Creek.

The fire that was called into the Craig Fire Rescue at 8:32 a.m. started in the garage and burned quickly through the house's south end before it caught onto and totaled a Ford Ranger pickup in the driveway, said Fire Chief Roy Mason.

Steve Kernen arrived home last night from a hunting trip in the couple's camper. Fortunately, the vehicle, some clothes and other items that were packed inside were saved, he said.

"Luckily, I didn't back that up to the house and plug it in," Kernen said, thankful they didn't lose their recreational vehicle.

The couple plan to live in their camper until they make arrangements for a permanent house. They carried insurance on the house but some possessions may not be easily replaced.

The Kernens were fond of collecting Indian relics, antiques and quilts at their rural home. Though the north end of their home didn't burn all the way through, they estimated the heat and smoke damage ruined most of the items in that area.

Steve and Leta's son, Kevin Kernen, is a volunteer firefighter with Craig Fire Rescue, but the parents said they were glad he wasn't yet on site. Kevin Kernen works at the Tri-State Power Plant.

"This is one fire I'm glad he didn't come on," said Leta Kernen. "It may have been too much for him."

The couple sipped sodas and watched as Craig firefighters extinguished the blaze, spraying foam and water onto their charred home. Four vehicles from Craig Fire Rescue and one ambulance arrived on site.

Firefighters planned to continue foaming the house until the late morning, until it was certain it wouldn't re-ignite, Mason said.

"We're just thankful for being alive," Leta said. "It's reality, you just got to keep going."

"It's probably going to hit us later," she added.

The Kernen's house fire is the second structure fire in less than a week in Craig. On Sept. 17, firefighters from Craig Fire Rescue responded to a blaze that gutted four units at the Alpine Apartments.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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